Starting up the Mountain at Fushimi Inari Taisha

(This blog picks up where last week’s tour of Fushimi Inari left off. To start at the beginning, click here.)

Fushimi Inari’s primary altar stands just past the massive entry gates. Although the shrine has many altars - large ones as well as lesser ones (some dedicated to Inari and others to different kami, though most of them are Inari’s since it’s Inari’s sacred mountain)

16F26 Fushimi Inari Main Shrine

Like most Shinto shrines, the altars at Fushimi Inari are adorned with shide, white paper folded in a zig-zag pattern and presented as an offering.

16F26 FI Shrine papers

Behind the main altar, and to the left, stands the first and widest of the many staircases that lead visitors up the sacred mountain.

16F26 FI staircase

As is often the case at Fushimi Inari Taisha, a pair of stone foxes–Inari’s messengers and guardians–stands guard on either side at the base of the stairs.

16F26 Inari fox guarding stairs

Three sub-shrines with collection boxes sit at the top of the first large staircase, along with a map of the shrine precinct. If you look, you can find the red dot that means “you are here”:

16F26 Shrine Map FI

A path branches off to the left, leading to a wooded glade that’s home to several more small shrines and lines of carved stone lanterns. To the right stands a “stable” where the shrine’s white horse statue is stored between festivals. (On festival days, horse statues now stand in for the real horses Shinto shrines would formerly sacrifice to the gods. To learn more about this custom, click here.)

16F26 Inari horse barn

Beyond the horse’s “stable” lies the entrance to yet another path–the one most people visit this shrine to see.

16F26 Gates (beginning)

The paths that lead up Mount Inari are lined with thousands of wooden torii (by some counts, at least 10,000) donated by companies and individuals alike.

16F26 Starting gates FI

The gates are close together near the base of the mountain, and very large - the people in the photos provide the scale. The gates decrease somewhat in size for a while, but grow much larger again as you climb the mountain.

That’s all we have time for in this installment, but I hope you’ll join me next Monday, as we continue our journey and begin the climb through Fushimi Inari’s 10,000 torii gates.


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Worldbuilding, or Down the Rabbit Hole – by L.J. Cohen

Today, please welcome guest blogger L.J. Cohen, author of the HALCYONE SPACE series, including the recently-released DREADNOUGHT AND SHUTTLE.:


When a materials science student gets kidnapped, she’s drawn into a conflict between the young crew of a sentient spaceship, a weapons smuggling ring, and a Commonwealth-wide conspiracy and must escape before her usefulness as a hostage expires.

(Enter to win a copy of Dreadnought and Shuttle, or one of LJ’s other books, by leaving a comment on this post–more details below!)

Worldbuilding, or Down the Rabbit Hole

by LJ Cohen

People often ask me why I chose to write science fiction and fantasy rather than, say, contemporary fiction. My flip answer is that I get to make stuff up. But the reality is if I want to keep readers engaged and not leave them either scratching their heads or flinging the book across the room, I have to build a world and include details that make sense.

And that means research.

For the Halcyone Space books (DERELICT, ITHAKA RISING, AND DREADNOUGHT AND SHUTTLE), I’ve had to research a large range of interesting things. Some of which, I’m sure, has gotten me on several watch lists. (I joke, but I’m also somewhat serious!)

•   structure of the military, particularly the navy and especially their air division
•   LaGrange points (places in a solar system where the gravitational forces balance out)
•   creation of fuel from nuclear material
•   using a soldering iron in zero gravity (Yes, it’s possible. Yes, NASA did studies.)
•   human circulatory system and the use of catheters to inject materials into the body
•   signs and symptoms of head trauma (Along with the circulatory system, I only needed a refresher on this, given that I had a 25 year career as a physical therapist.)
•   how to generate an EMP (electro-magnetic pulse) and what it would destroy
•   photovoltaic charge & storage
•   plant grafting & genetic engineering of plants
•   blood toxicology screening
•   spectroscopic assays (basically plant DNA typing)
•   the physics of wormhole travel
•   object oriented computer programming
•   radiation exposure levels for the human body
•   plasma weapons & burns

And that’s just what I remember off the top of my head.

One of my favorite things to research led me to a study of how our brains process cause and effect and how that sense of temporal order is impaired in schizophrenia. One theory is that the voices that patients with schizophrenia hear are their own internal voices, only experienced out of phase from the thoughts or events that generated them. That led me to invent a future malady: jump sickness, where the thoughts and perceptions of early wormhole pilots ended up permanently out of phase with their external experiences.

That ended up being one or two lines in ITHAKA RISING, but will feature in future books as well as in a prequel short story about the early days of wormhole exploration.

If you are a writer, what are your favorite research topics? If you are a reader, where does your curiosity take you?

LJ Cohen is a novelist, poet, blogger, ceramics artist, and relentless optimist. After almost twenty-five years as a physical therapist, LJ now uses her anatomical knowledge and myriad clinical skills to injure characters in her science fiction and fantasy novels. She lives in the Boston area with her family, two dogs, and the occasional international student. DREADNOUGHT AND SHUTTLE (book 3 of the SF/Space Opera series Halcyone Space), is her sixth novel. LJ is a member of SFWA, Broad Universe, and the Independent Publishers of New England.

You can find DREADNOUGHT AND SHUTTLE, and LJ Cohen’s other books, at Barnes &, Google Books, the KOBO Store, and on iTunes.

FOR A CHANCE TO WIN an ebook copy of one of LJ Cohen’s novels (winner’s choice!) just leave a comment on this blog before 11:59p.m. Pacific Time on Friday, July 1, 2016, answering one of the questions at the end of the post.

One winner will be drawn at random from all eligible comments. Open worldwide. No purchase necessary to win. Odds of winning vary with number of entries. Void where prohibited.

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Pros and Cons of Pen Names in Self Publishing (And Otherwise)

Today’s topic came to me through a comment and question in the #PubLaw Twitter feed, from an author curious about the use of pen names by author-publishers.

Most people know that authors can legally use a pseudonym, or “pen name,” in place of his or her own name on published works. This is true for self-published works as well as traditionally published ones, and pen names can be used in non-fiction as well as on novels. (One caveat: most non-fiction sells primarily as a result of the author’s fame or renown, so unless you’ve developed a platform under a pseudonym, changing your name may have a negative impact on non-fiction sales.) 

However, use of pseudonyms can sometimes create additional issues for authors, so it’s important to be aware of the legal ramifications of pseudonym use.

Authors Must Investigate and Comply With Applicable State and Local Laws (If any).

Some states (and government entities) require people to register fictitious business names. Although this doesn’t normally apply to pseudonyms, authors should check with a local attorney to ensure that the local rules don’t apply to pen names. These regulations often do apply to publishing imprints the author uses when self-publishing creative works, because an imprint is similar to a business–it’s a publisher name. Consult an attorney to determine what registration requirements may apply, and be sure to comply with them before releasing works under an imprint you own.

Registering Copyright In Pseudonyms Can  Shorten the Copyright Term.

Standard U.S. copyright protection on creative works lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years. However, anonymous and pseudonymous works are protected for the shorter of 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation. Where an author lives for many years after publication of the work, publishing under a pseudonym may result in a shortened copyright term. Authors can circumvent this problem by registering their identities (and pen names) with the U.S. copyright office, but that registration can be accessed by the public – meaning that registered pen names are not truly anonymous or untraceable.

Tax and Contract Issues.

Whether you publish traditionally or as an author-publisher, you must declare all income under your real, legal name — even if it was earned using a pseudonym. Also, you must file and pay your taxes as required by law. Author-publishers should realize that receipt of publishing income qualifies them as “self-employed” or “independent contractors”–which may require payment of quarterly estimated taxes (whether or not you also have a job as an employee where part of your income is withheld by the employer).

Authors who publish under pseudonyms must declare all income (and pay all taxes due) on appropriate tax returns and at appropriate times of year. (Note that estimated taxes are paid quarterly, on the 15th of April, June, September, and January). Also, author-publishers should enter into contracts (e.g., for cover art or distribution) using their real names. The contracts may reference the pseudonym, but legally binding contracts need to use a legal name.

Have an Estate Plan in Place (That Addresses the Pen Name).

Pen names can complicate transfer of an author’s assets after death. Writers who elect to use a pseudonym should have a will that addresses the issue and ensure that the named executor (or next of kin) is aware of the existence of the pseudonym and where to find written documentation proving ownership of the pen name.

Don’t Pick Someone Else’s Name (or Trademark).

Selecting a name isn’t easy – for parents or for authors. Writers can’t use pen names that already “belong” to another author or celebrity. If you try to publish your basketball mystery series under the name of “Larry Bird,” you may find yourself on the receiving end of a cease and desist letter – or, worse, a lawsuit.

Pen Names Will Not Protect You Against Lawsuits.

Authors occasionally opt for pen names when publishing a “tell-all” memoir or other controversial work. This isn’t illegal per se, but it also won’t protect the actual author against claims of defamation (libel) and other lawsuits. A pen name may shield the author from public view, but it does not provide protection against a lawsuit. The indemnity provisions in publishing contracts allow the publisher to “out” authors if a lawsuit arises – self-published authors will have to “out” themselves. Essentially: a pseudonym helps limit public disclosure of your name, but won’t help you if legal claims are made against you. 

These aren’t the only legal ramifications of using a pen name, but authors who take care to comply with legal registration requirements, register their names with the copyright office, pay taxes promptly and otherwise stay within the law should find the use of a pen name relatively free of legal trouble.

15I22 Magellan and Weeble

Have questions? Feel free to ask here or tweet me (@SusanSpann) using the #PubLaw hashtag!

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Noh Stage at Fushimi Inari Taisha

Nō drama (sometimes Romanized as “Noh”) is a Japanese art that originated in the 14th century. Performers wear masks, and perform in a highly ritualized manner on stages that haven’t changed much in five hundred years.

This stage, located at Fushimi Inari Shrine (just south of Kyoto) dates back several hundred years, and features in my upcoming Hiro Hattori novel, The Ninja’s Daughter (which releases from Seventh Street Books on August 2):

16F21 Noh stage

Although this particular stage did not exist in 1565, when the novel takes place, Nō was performed on the grounds of Fushimi Inari at that time, and I incorporated a performance of a very famous Nō play into the story, which involves the murder of an actor’s daughter on the banks of Kyoto’s Kamo River.

This stage is still in use at certain times of the year, when Nō is performed at Fushimi Inari as part of certain rituals. 


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A Visit to Fushimi Inari Taisha

Inari Okami is one of Japan’s most important Shinto deities. As the patron god (sometimes also portrayed as a goddess) of fertility, foxes, rice, sake, merchants, industry, and prosperity (as well several as other things), it’s fair to say Inari gets around.

Many Shinto shrines have sub-shrines dedicated to Inari, like this one at Kyoto’s Ootoyo Jinja:

16E29 Ootoyo Jinja subshrine (Inari)

Estimates place the total number of Inari shrines in Japan at over 10,000 – but the largest and most important is Fushimi Inari Taisha, just south of Kyoto. Over the next few weeks, my Monday blogs (and Tuesday/Thursday photo blogs) will take a closer look at this fantastic shrine–one of my favorites in Japan.

The entrance to Fushimi Inari Taisha sits, conveniently, directly across the street from a JR train station. The shrine sits approximately 20 minutes south of Kyoto Eki (Kyoto Central Station) by train. An enormous torii at the entrance leaves no question that you’re leaving the regular world and entering a highly sacred space:

16F20 FI Torii

A hundred yards farther up the path, a second giant torii stands directly in front of the main entrance steps leading up to the shrine.

16F20 FI Torii Entrance

Just past the second torii, a large purification fountain provides a place for visitors to conduct the standard ritual cleansing of their hands and mouths before entering the shrine. (More on this in a future post.) This photo actually shows the much smaller purification basin located slightly farther inside the shrine:

16F20 purification Inari Shrine

The day I visited, the primary purification fountain was being used by a group of visitors, and it’s impolite to photograph strangers engaged in ritual activities, so I opted for a picture of this lesser basin instead. The idea, however, is much the same.

A pair of stone Inari guardians watch over the shrine’s entrance from the top of the steps. One holds a key, which symbolizes the keys to the grain storehouse, while the other holds a  round jewel — both symbols of Inari Okami.

16F20 Inari Guardian

Fushimi Inari Taisha is an enormous shrine which spreads around the base of Mount Inari and also covers much of the mountain. The primary altar for worshippers sits at the mountain’s base, near the entrance, but the holiest spot on the mountain actually lies all the way at the peak — a 2-3 hour journey up winding paths lined with thousands of torii gates. (Tune in next week for the climb…)

Several sub-shrines cluster around the base of the mountain too. Directly to the right of the entry stairs, this torii marks the entrance to the largest of these sub-shrines:

16F20 subshrine

Past the torii, the walls are lined with prayer amulets and strings of origami cranes, folded prayerfully as petitions to the kami:

16F2 Inari Subshrine prayers

(Each of those colorful strings is composed of dozens of carefully-folded cranes.)

Beyond the walls of amulets and prayer chains lies the altar where petitioners stand to present their prayers. Note the red rope hanging down in front of the altar: it’s attached to a bell that hangs from the rafters, which visitors ring before praying to alert the kami to their presence.

16F20 Inari Subshrine Altar

Just outside this first sub-shrine stands a large wooden rack, where important donors’ names are displayed on wooden plaques.

16F20 FI Donor Plaques

Many Shinto shrines have similar displays, arranged according to donation size, with the largest donors’ names appearing on the top-left side of the display.

16F20 Inari Donor Plaques

Next week, we’ll continue our journey around the shrine and start the climb up Mount Inari – I hope you’ll join me for more.

Have you ever been to Fushimi Inari Taisha? Can you fold an origami crane?  

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Komainu: Sacred Lion-Dogs of Japan

Many Japanese shrines and temples feature guardian komainu. 

16F16 Miyajima Komainu

These lion-dog statues, commonly carved from stone, watch over the entrance to the inner shrines at many Shinto holy sites. At some, the statues are hidden from view, but others, like Fushimi Inari Taisha, have komainu on display as well.

16F16 Inari Komainu

In addition to guarding the inner sanctum, many shrines and Buddhist temples have komainu on display at the entry gates. This one watches over Nanzenji:

16F16 Komainu

Traditionally, komainu are placed at the entrance to a holy site to ward off evil spirits. Some of the statues have open mouths, while other komainu‘s mouths are closed. The open-mouthed statues, known as a-gyōare saying “a,” the first letter of the Sanskrit alphabet.

16F16 Komainu Ootoyo Jinja

The closed-mouthed statues, called  un-gyō, are saying “um,” the final letter of the Sanskrit alphabet.

16F16 ootoyo komainu 2

Together, the statues are saying aum (sometimes written “om” in English), which is a sacred syllables and sound in Buddhism and Hinduism.

Although the lion-dog’s symbology ties directly to Buddhism (and Hinduism, though that religion is far less commonly practiced in Japan), komainu are overwhelmingly present at Shinto shrines as well. In fact, most of my komainu photographs were taken at Shinto sites rather than Buddhist temples. This isn’t necessarily surprising, however. Japan’s indigenous religion has no conflict with Buddhism, and Shinto sites frequently feature Buddhist guardians and deities.

Komainu are the Japanese version of “fu dogs” (in Chinese, “shi”), and fill a similar purpose, guarding the entrances to sacred spaces and warding off evil. If you travel in Japan, you’ll see komainu everywhere–generally at sacred sites but also in front of homes and businesses. Their ubiquitous presence speaks to both the Japanese love for tradition and the pervasive influence of Buddhist and Shinto thought.

Whether you want to see them as guardians, wards against evil, or simply a unique facet of Japanese culture, if you go to Japan, you’ll definitely see them. If you look carefully, you’ll notice that though they look almost the same, the artists who make these special statues still manage to imbue them with individual personalities, especially in their expressions.

16F16 Miyajima Komainu

Take a closer look at these komainu, and let me know which one is your favorite!

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On the Road Again…

This morning, I put my son on a plane for an 11-week internship outside Tokyo, Japan.

Posting may be light this week, but I promise we’ll get back to our regularly-scheduled program by Friday.

In the meantime, permit me to offer you a seahorse, as thanks for stopping by:


15J13 Seahorses

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A Warning About Nondisclosure Clauses in Publishing Deals

I’m guestblogging at Writers in the Storm today, discussing the dangers of nondisclosure and confidentiality clauses in publishing contracts — and how to avoid them.

Whether you’re looking for a publisher, considering a contract, or already under contract and writing another book, this is important information, and can help you protect yourself and your legal rights.

I hope you’ll click through to Writers in the Storm.

And if publishing law is not your thing, here’s a happy Kyoto penguin to brighten your day:

16D12 baby penguin

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Protecting Your Legal Rights Online

In Star Wars, Obi-Wan Kenobi refers to Mos Eisley spaceport as a “wretched hive of scum and villainy” and adds, “we must be careful.”

Obi-Wan’s wisdom applies to the Internet also.

Regardless of your publishing path, if you write for publication, you should take steps to protect your copyrighted work against Internet-based infringement.

No single post can cover all of the ways to protect your work online–and it’s admittedly impossible to completely stop all Internet-based piracy of an author’s work–but here are some tips on things all authors can do to protect and enforce their copyrights:

Perform Regular Copyright / Infringement Searches.

Every author should search the Internet regularly (at least once a month) for: (a) the author’s name, (b) the author’s published titles, and (c) any other words, phrases, or marks which might reveal infringement or illegal copying of the author’s work. 

Internet searches are important even if you also use Google Alerts or another monitoring service. While effective, automated alerts don’t catch all infringement, and can’t be relied upon to screen for all uses of an author’s work on the Internet.

Warning: Not all sites that come up on these searches will be safe to click on. Protect your computer with anti-script and antivirus software and other protective measures before clicking through to unknown or untrusted websites. Many websites that contain infringing content also contain trojan horses and other dangerous computer viruses. In fact, in many cases, that infringing “book download” is often just a virus–not your book at all. 

Set Up and Monitor Automated Alerts (like Google Alerts).

Programs like Google Alerts will monitor the Internet and automatically send the author updates when the search terms listed in the alerts appear online. Google alerts is available free of charge in many circumstances; some programs and monitoring systems offer this service for a fee, but in most cases authors can get the same services free of charge through a combination of Google Alerts and regular Internet searches for the author’s name and title(s). Unfortunately, automated systems are not 100% reliable, which is why I recommend using Google Alerts in conjunction with regular “live” Internet searches.

Register Copyrights and Use Copyright Notices When Appropriate.

Make sure that your publisher registers your copyrights with the U.S. Copyright Office in a timely manner (and if you’re self published, remember: the publisher is you.) Use copyright notices on all published works, including articles, presentation handouts and lecture notes, and blogs (unless the blog already has a copyright notice on it).

Learn How to Prepare and Use a DMCA Takedown Notice.

In many cases, publishers will send the DMCA notice on behalf of traditionally published authors, if the author notifies the publisher of the infringement. However, it will be easier for the publisher to send the notice if the author knows what information to provide.

The DMCA (which stands for Digital Milennium Copyright Act) is a U.S. law designed to protect authors’ rights and facilitate access to information. The law contains a provision requiring Internet Service Providers and website administrators within the U.S. to investigate and address claims of copyright infringement promptly, as long as the notice of infringement complies with the requirements contained in the DMCA.


The bad news is that the DMCA does only apply within the United States – and most pirate websites are located offshore, in places that won’t comply.

If you want to learn more about using a DMCA takedown notice, you can find instructions and explanations here. 

Traditionally published authors should check with their publishers before preparing and sending DMCA notices, because in many cases the publisher prefers to handle those notices in-house. Self-published authors need to learn the procedure and how to use a DMCA notice, in order to protect their legal rights.

Track Your Licenses and Permissions.

Authors should have a file (either physical or electronic) for every copyrighted or published work, which states: (a) which rights in the work the author has licensed, sold, or granted, (b) to whom, and (c) when the contract or grant of rights expires. This way, if any question arises about whether uses are legal or not, the author has a quick-reference guide to the work’s current copyright status. At the start of an author’s career, it’s easy to track these rights, but the more works you produce, and the more years pass since their creation, the harder it will be to remember without a written record.

Know When to Fight (and When Not to – and how to effect change).

Unfortunately, many pirate websites that feature infringing content exist outside the United States, where we can’t control them. Even successful efforts to shut them down are temporary, because new ones spring up almost overnight. 

If infringers refuse to respond to legally proper notices or requests for removal, authors should consult a copyright lawyer to determine their legal rights and whether legal action is worthwhile. In many unfortunate cases, infringers host their sites “offshore” in countries where copyright protection is nonexistent or favorable to thieves. These sites are difficult to shut down and often impossible to regulate, so pursuit of their owners may be a waste of time. However, other infringers may respond to attorneys (or court orders) even if they ignore the author’s initial contact. It’s often worth a call to an experienced lawyer if an infringer ignores or disregards your rights.

As far as the “non-controllable” infringers, the best way to fight them is not to patronize them. Ever. And to encourage others not to, either. While piracy will exist as long as people are willing to steal copyrighted works, authors themselves should not be part of the problem.

Finally, to take away the sting, here’s today’s seahorse: Moya.

15L14 Moya on polyps

Have you ever had to police your legal rights on the Internet? How did the experience go for you?

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A Visit to Kyoto’s Nishi Honganji

Kyoto’s Nishi Honganji is one of Japan’s most important Buddhist temples.

The Jōdo Shinshū, or “True essence of pure land,” school of Buddhism was founded by a monk named Shinran Shonin (1173–1263), whose teachings focused on a return to a more pure form of Buddhist understanding and enlightenment through verse.

Originally known simply as “Honganji,” the temple now called Nishi (“Western”) Honganji was constructed in 1602 on land granted to the sect by Tokugawa Ieyasu. A second temple, known as Higashi (“Eastern”) Honganji sits several blocks away (not surprisingly, to the east).

Nishi Honganji remains an active Buddhist temple (with services open to the public early every morning). During my research trip to Japan last summer, I woke up early in time to attend a temple service.

The service began with the ringing of a bronze bell that has sounded the call to worship at Nishi Honganji for hundreds of years.

Nishi Honganji Bell

Shortly after the ringing began, several dozen monks and acolytes walked in procession along the covered hallways that front the Goeido (“Founder’s Hall”) and Amidado (“Hall of the Amida Buddha”) and entered the Amidado, where the services take place. Out of respect for the services and the monks, I have no photographs of the service itself, or of the procession, but these are the walkways where the procession occurred:

Nishi Honganji Veranda 2

Nishi Honganji veranda

You can also see a live view of the Nishi Honganji courtyard, with the Amidado on the right and the Goeido on the left, on the temple’s website, here.

The Goeido features elaborate carved finials in the shape of lions, and has been designated a Japanese National Treasure (along with the Amidado and the Karamon).

 Nishi Honganji finial (2)

The primary entrances to Nishi Honganji, called the Goeido and Amidado gates, lie on the eastern side of the compound:

Nishi Honganji entrance

These entrances are used by most worshippers and by the monks. However, when members of the Imperial family visit Nishi Honganji, they use through a special entrance on the southern side of the temple complex, known as the karamon.

Nishi Honganji Karamon (closeup)

Nishi Honganji’s karamon dates to 1573 and features special undulating gables known as karahafu, an architectural style which originated in Japan. The gabled roof is covered with bark, and the gates themselves feature highly decorative paneled screens with images of kirin and other fantastical creatures:

 Nishi Honganji Karamon detail

The gates remain closed except for periodic visits by the Imperial family.

A giant ginko tree grows in Nishi Honganji’s courtyard. The tree is over 400 years old, and has been designated a Natural Monument by the city of Kyoto. According to legend, the tree once sprayed water from its branches to save the temple’s buildings from a fire. Whether or not you believe it serves as an ersatz fire-extinguisher, the ginko is a massive, lovely tree.

Nishi Honganji Ginko

Many Western visitors to Kyoto miss out on Nishi Honganji because it doesn’t receive the same attention in Western guidebooks as more popular sites like the Philosopher’s Path and Kinkakuji. However, if you want to experience a Buddhist worship service, or visit the most important sites of Buddhist worship in Japan, Nishi Honganji should not be missed.

Have you visited Nishi Honganji, or any other Buddhist Temple in Japan? Would you like to?




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